Study: Trucking across the Canada-US border, 2004 to 2009

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In 2009, it cost 15% more to ship cargo across the border from Canada to the United States by truck than it did to transport equivalent goods the same distance between two destinations within Canada.

If cargo happened to be picked up in the United States and brought into Canada in 2009, the cost of importing these goods was estimated at 28% more than shipping the same goods domestically.

This study provides a first-ever estimate of the magnitude and sources of costs associated with trucking goods across the border between 2004 and 2009.

The two main factors in cross-border trucking costs are fixed costs per shipment of moving goods across the border and higher line-haul costs of trucking cargo over longer distances.

Delays at the border and other border compliance costs add to the fixed costs per shipment incurred by trucking firms. These fixed costs include facilities cost, insurance, and terminal costs, that is, loading and unloading costs.

Similarly, differences in fuel prices or difficulties finding "backhauls," namely cargo for a return shipment, can add to the line-haul costs of shipping to and from the United States.

The estimates for 2009 were a reversal of the situation five years earlier.

In 2004, the cost of trucking goods across the border from Canada to the United States was roughly 31% higher than shipping them the same distance domestically, well above the 2009 estimate.

However, the cost of importing goods by truck from the United States was an estimated 18% higher in 2004, well below the estimate five years later.

This reversal resulted primarily from changing line-haul costs, which, relative to domestic line-haul costs, fell for exports and rose for imports. Over this period, the balance of truck-borne trade swung decidedly towards imports, which may have switched the "backhaul" from the import to the export portion of a truck's round-trip.

On a tariff-equivalent basis, the extra cost associated with cross-border trucking added about 0.9% to the value of exported goods in 2004 and 0.4% to imported goods.

By 2009, the extra costs of cross-border trucking added about 0.4% to the value of exported goods, and 0.8% to the value of imported goods.

Note to readers

This study is based on data from Statistics Canada's Trucking Commodity Origin and Destination Survey. It examines how much crossing the border adds to the cost of moving goods by truck. In addition, it quantifies the cost of border delays, border-related compliance costs, and other costs associated with moving goods to and from the United States, Canada's main trading partner.

Costs measured by this study are only part of the total cost of shipping goods across the border. Institutional costs borne directly by exporting firms for matters such as customs administration have been estimated to be as great or greater than the costs passed on to them by freight carriers.

Definitions, data sources and methods: survey number survey number2741.

The research paper "Trucking Across the Border: The Relative Cost of Cross-border and Domestic Trucking, 2004 to 2009", part of the Economic Analysis Research Paper Series (Catalogue number11F0027M, free), is now available from the Key resource module of our website under Publications.

Highlights of the findings of this paper are available in the article "How Thick Is the Border?", as part of the Economic Insights series (Catalogue number11-626-X, free), from the Key resource module of our website, under Publications.

Similar studies from the Economic Analysis Division are available online (

For more information, contact us (toll-free 1-800-263-1136; or Media Relations (613-951-4636;

To enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Mark Brown (613-951-7292), Economic Analysis Division.